In the mini-SUV market there are few all-wheel drive options at an affordable price point. Renault’s Duster is one of those, and the upgraded version of this French gravel travel favourite launches in South Africa this week.
Unusually for a French vehicle, Duster has proven rugged enough for conquering South Africa’s vast gravel road network and coastal sand tracks. Beyond its light off-roading ability, Renault’s baby SUV also being a capable daily driver in urban conditions and as such, very much the prototypical contemporary compact SUV.
The latest raft of upgrades to one of Renault’s most popular products include a new appearance and some additional features. Duster’s simple and distinctive two-box design and classic off-road mini-wagon proportions are now slightly softened by new grille and headlights, whilst redesigned 17-inch alloy wheels distinguish the diesel models from their petrol siblings.
Mechanically very little has changed with the new range. Ground clearance remains an impressive 210mm and engines are either a 1.6-litre petrol or two 1.5-litre turbodiesels, all three being four-cylinders in configuration. Of the five-derivative range, four are diesels – which clearly shows what Renault South Africa has learned from its demand panning with Duster, and realise what customers want.
The diesel Duster is impressively light on fuel if driven with restraint, averaging 4.8l/100km. Two states of tune are available on the 1.5-litre engine. In manual two-wheel drive configuration the engine boosts 66kW and 210Nm, whilst the all-wheel drive and six-speed dual-clutch Dusters are more powerful, good for 80kW and 240Nm.
Comfort and convenience upgrades include a Multiview camera system, to ensure the already nimble Duster is never scuffed against a tree when navigating off-road, or against a pillar when revering out of a challenging underground parking space. For peace of mind during multilane highway cruising, Renault’s blind spot detection and warning sensor is a welcome driver aid.
Rivalling Ford’s new Ecosport, Toyota’s Rush and Hyundai’s Creta, the comparative advantage that comes with Duster has always been its all-wheel drive ability. Although only a single model is all-wheel drive, Renault offers something its rivals cannot with the 1.5 dCi Dynamique 4×4 and its off-roading ability has now been improved with the addition of hill-descent control.
South Africans with a spirit of adventure, and budgets preventing the purchase of a full-size all-wheel drive SUV, have found Duster’s 4×4 formula perfectly suited to their needs. Which explains Renault having sold 15 000 Dusters locally since its debut in 2013.
1.6 Expression 4X2 R249 900
1.5 dCi Dynamique 4×2 R282 900
1.5 dCi Dynamique EDC 4×2 R316 900
1.5 dCi Dynamique 4×4 R321 900
1.5 dCi Prestige EDC 4×2 R334 900
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